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"Robert E Lee for President?" Topic

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Major General Stanley11 Jan 2022 6:36 a.m. PST

I was watching a documentary on YouTube about Lee post-war where it was mentioned that the Democratic Party considered him as a Presidential Candidate. I had never heard this before. It seems a bit surprising as Lee seems to have been largely apolitical. A quick google turned up nothing on the topic. The fact that it was even considered must mean that Lee was respected in the North and that seems a bit odd. Anyone know more? Any guesses on how a Lee vs Grant election would have gone?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 6:55 a.m. PST

Lee was respected north and south. Remember Lincoln had offered him command on the Union side. It was one of the many tragedies of the era that he had to choose between supporting a bad cause and making war on friends, neighbors and relatives. People who chose differently usually understood the difficulty of the choice.

But I'd rate election to the Presidency as a very low probability. We'd have to be talking about the election of 1868, since he died in 1870. (In fact, when he died, his citizenship hadn't been restored, though he'd filled out the paperwork.) Much of the south was still occupied with Republican civil governments, Grant was immensely popular, and the Democrats don't win many Presidential elections until the Civil War generation starts to pass.

If you want to play with "what if's" for post-Civil War, imagine Lincoln not being assassinated, or the Union Party picking a different vice-Presidential candidate in 1864. A number of possibilities.

doc mcb11 Jan 2022 7:29 a.m. PST

I did research in the Buell Papers (on an unrelated topic but I had to read all his letters); he was a Democrat and there was a lot of pressure on him to run against Grant. Of course he was not the general Lee was, but he was at least on the same side, and a number of correspondents pointed out that Buell had saved Grant's ass at Shiloh. Buell was not interested.

DisasterWargamer11 Jan 2022 7:33 a.m. PST

Two Thoughts

I dont believe there was a "southern" born President until Woodrow Wilson – so while respected in some ways – would have been a stretch

Also – his lack of citizenship would have created a problem. While Lee applied for his citizenship to have been restored – it wasnt until 1975 that it actually was completed even though the process started in 1865.


79thPA Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 8:12 a.m. PST

There is also a difference between someone/s in the party considering Lee a candidate, and Lee considering himself a candidate.

William Warner11 Jan 2022 10:37 a.m. PST

I presume DisasterWargamer means southern presidents elected after the Civil War. There certainly were plenty of them elected before.

Personal logo enfant perdus Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 11:42 a.m. PST

He would have been barred by the 14th Amendment, unless a ⅔ vote in both House and Senate restored his eligibility.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 11:45 a.m. PST

You know, if for some "what if?" purpose I wanted a Confederate General in the White House, Breckenridge would be a better bet. He lived longer (1875) and had actually been a US Rep, Vice President and one of the Democratic Party's nominees in 1860. In real life, he gave up politics after the war, but overall I'd say he was less of a stretch.

But if you really want to play with the post-Civil War United States, I'd skip to the 1876 election. That one has all kinds of possibilities.

doc mcb11 Jan 2022 12:18 p.m. PST

robert, yes, on both counts

raylev3 Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 9:12 p.m. PST

Whoa…YouTube as a source???

Major General Stanley12 Jan 2022 10:23 a.m. PST

Raylev, It was a lecture by a Gettysburg park ranger. They are usually quite well qualified

raylev3 Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2022 6:47 p.m. PST

Good to know…

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